Skip to main content

Sandy Journal

Welcome the winter solstice in Sandy with Irish dancers and Celtic Woman violinist

Dec 10, 2019 02:21PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Violinist Máiréad Nesbitt and dancers from the Scariff School of Irish Dance perform at the Celtic Winter’s Night in Sandy. (Photo credit Richard Lynch)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

If you’re looking to start a new holiday tradition, or celebrate the winter solstice with a Celtic flavor, the Celtic Winter’s Night performance in Sandy on Dec. 21 might be just what you’re looking for. Presented by the Scariff School of Irish Dance, Celtic Winter’s Night is a holiday show that brings world-class dancers and violinist Máiréad Nesbitt right to Sandy. 

“Máiréad and I were on stage together 22 years ago. We’ve known each other that long and we’re very good friends. She’s booked out the rest of the year, but has made it a tradition to come perform with us,” said Stephen Scariff, director of the dance school. Scariff operates four studios in Utah, including one in Sandy, and is a sought-after adjudicator.  

Nesbitt, an Emmy and Grammy nominated musician, is a big draw for the show. But Scariff said his dancers hold their own. 

“We have excellent competitive dancers. One of our dancers, Mia Leonelli, was ranked 10th in the world. They’re very competitively driven up through November. This concert gives them a chance to refocus, and includes the rest of the dancers in the school,” Scariff said. 

The Scariff School started the concert three years ago, and it grows each year. “Every year we’re able to build on it and sell more tickets. We decided to be safe and book the theater at Eastmont, which seats 1,100. We’ve hired [rented] some backdrops of Celtic scenes and added lighting elements. We’re excited for the new music and costumes,” Scariff said. 

Naomi Smith, a dancer turned teacher, has been with the school for eight years. “We underestimated how many people would be interested — not just parents and families of the dancers, but in the community. Due to a miscommunication last year, we oversold the tickets by 100 and had to scramble to find seats,” Smith said. 

Smith appreciates the bigger venue this year. “We were thinking about staging opportunities, decorating and a venue closer to the studio in Sandy. In the process, we’ve tripled the amount of tickets we can offer,” Smith said. 

A native of Ireland, Nesbitt became a household visual — if not name — several years ago. After her success in Riverdance, she was part of the group Celtic Woman. Her signature move is athletically dancing around the stage in beautiful gowns while simultaneously playing her violin at a virtuosic level. 

“To be able to see [Nesbitt] perform live is such an incredible opportunity. The moment she enters the stage, the way she carries herself … it’s magic. You can tell she’s a world-class performer. The dancing mixed with music is infused throughout the show,” Smith said. 

For those who are looking for a last-minute gift or want to take a piece of the show home with them, Nesbitt has also designed a line of Celtic-inspired jewelry, appropriately called Solstice. It is available online and certain pieces may be available to buy at the show. 

Another addition this year is vocalists. “We auditioned several vocalists from the community. We’re going to make it as professional as possible. That’s the advantage of having Stephen [Scariff]. He’s got a lifetime of experience on the stage. His understanding of the way to bring about a production is superior. What he’s brought to Utah gets bigger and better every year,” Smith said. 

The concert is Sat., Dec. 21 at Eastmont Middle School, 10100 South 1300 East in Sandy. Tickets are $16 per individual, or $55 for a pack of four. Children under 4 are free. Tickets can be purchased from the dancers, online at Eventbrite, or by contacting the school directly: email [email protected] or call 801-558-8956.  

“We’re very excited to bring local, world-class dancers and Máiréad together on the stage at a reasonable price. It’s growing every year, and it’s exciting to be a part of it,” Scariff said.